Edogawa Rampo’s short story, ‘The Human Chair’,was originally published in Japanese in 1925. The story is taken from the collection, Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination, translated by James B. Harris, and published by Tuttle Publishing. ‘The Human Chair’ is a tale of the grotesque in which a master carpenter entombs himself inside a chair in order to gain the intimacy that society has denied him. The longer he spends inside the chair, pressed close to the bodies of strangers, the harder it becomes to return to his ordinary life. As well as being a superb example of the uncanny tale, ‘The Human Chair’ is a rich palimpsest that reveals layer upon layer of sexual, social and national anxietie: s.
Over the course of the episode, we discuss Edgar Allan Poe’s influence in Japan, the combination of the erotic and the grotesque, and consider how this tale straddles the border between the horrific and the horrible.
Poe Abroad: Influence, Reputation, Affinities (1999) ed. by Lois Davis Vines (University of Iowa Press)
Stalking (2006) by Bran Nicol (Reaktion Books)
‘“Anxieties of Influence” Edogawa Rampo’s Horrifying Hybrids’ in Purloined Letters (2008) by Mark Silver (University of Hawaii Press)
‘Deviance and Social Darwinism in Edogawa Ranpo's Erotic-Grotesque Thriller "Kotō no oni"‘ by Jim Reichert in The Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Winter, 2001)